Super Bowl 52 Preview - Patriots Team Report
By Nicki Jhabvala (Pro Football Writers of America)
Here is the Super Bowl LII pool report for the New England Patriots, filed by Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.
Patriots Practice & Team Report - February 3, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday, a loud voice blared from the speakers inside U.S. Bank Stadium.
The bowl will be closed until noon, the voice told a stadium filled with event staff and security.
Minutes later, Patriots players donning their white jerseys and blue plants, and coaches dressed in all navy sauntered out of the tunnel and onto the field, heading toward the south end where a tower of bleachers awaited them at the 10-yard line.
After three days of practices at the Vikings' Winter Park facility, Saturday for the Patriots was photo and fun day, a time to gather with family, pose for a group shot and mingle after as Super Bowl LII neared. No practice was scheduled. No walkthrough, either.
"The families go through so much. They sacrifice so much for all of us and the time that we spend away and the strain that a season puts on them," coach Bill Belichick said. "So it's great to have them all here and it's great to give them an opportunity to be with their sons, daughters, husbands and to bring their family in and take pictures on the field and just kind of enjoy the day.
"It's a nice event for everybody -- the players and families, and the team picture with the kids. Everybody will look back on this."
Planted in the middle of the Eagles' end zone was a ladder and camera screen.
One by one, the players and coaches, as well as team president Jonathan Kraft and chairman/CEO Robert Kraft, filtered onto the bleachers, awaiting direction from the photographer standing on the ladder.
"One. Two. Three," the photographer yelled from his perch.
The Patriots' logo flashed on the far big screen and, just like that, the team's Super Bowl LII trip was documented.
After a few extra snaps -- just in case -- Patriots staffers called for the players' children and spouses, who had been sitting in the stands above the opposite end zone.
The children, most wearing their fathers' jerseys, scattered in front of the bleachers. Receiver Chris Hogan, standing front and center just below Robert Kraft, cradled his young twins, one in each arm, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore did the same with two kids.
Then all looked ahead at the camera and smiled for the family photo.
A final, "Thank you very much!" from the photographer was their signal to disperse and for the team's remaining time inside U.S. Bank Stadium, they gathered to soak in the moment, reflect on the journey and take a few family selfies.
An hour later, the same voice that closed the stadium bowl ushered the Patriots players to the buses.
"This afternoon is a normal Saturday for us," Belichick said. "So it would either be traveling if we were on the road, or if we were home the players would have the afternoon off to relax, get a massage, just catch up on whatever. Then we meet tonight and play tomorrow. We're on as much of a normal routine as we can be on."
Back to football.
Patriots Practice & Team Report - February 2, 2018
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The bass of a current hip hop song reverberated throughout the Vikings' Winter Park facility Friday afternoon as Tom Brady moved up to the line of scrimmage and scanned the defense. He pointed to the "Mike" linebacker, he checked the coverage, he motioned his running back, then signaled for the snap, the volume increasing with his every move. Without a misstep, the throw was off and the Patriots' offense inched its way to the end zone during situational drills. No matter the noise or distraction, it was business as usual in the Patriots' final practice -- the lightest of their three this week -- as the final pieces to the team's week of prep were put in place.
"Just kind of reviewing moving the field and we did all of our special-teams situations, so we just got everything one last time," coach Bill Belichick said. "Last tuneup. This is it."
Every player, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was cleared from the concussion protocol Thursday, was a full participant. Brady practiced only with the black KT tape on his right hand, as he has all week.
The challenges in preparing for the Eagles have been multifaceted, Belichick said, so throughout the week, the Patriots have tried to cover all their bases.
"They're pretty good at everything -- good in the kicking game, good on defense, good on offense, make you defend a lot of things," Belichick said. "Just the volume of it all. It's not like one thing you have to stop because there's 10 things you have to stop. So everybody is going to have to do a good job. You can't just rely on one guy or one thing."
Belichick and his staff have tried to mirror the team's schedule in Minnesota with what would be their normal week of work back in Foxboro. "We kind of try to stay on a normal schedule. So normally what we would do is Friday is this, and then guys do whatever their individual thing is," he said. "They might do massage or get some extra rest or maybe a certain film (study) routine that they're in. Tomorrow is going to be kind of a normal Saturday for us."
Only this week, the team will travel to U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday morning for a team photo and a gathering with family and friends.
Belichick laid a plan for the week to taper the workouts and keep his players on a schedule that balanced game preparation with staying fresh. Wednesday was the team's lone fully padded practice. Thursday was a bit lighter and Friday was the final review, with helmets and shells.
Prior to Friday's workout, the team's specialists traveled to U.S. Bank Stadium for a kicking session before returning to Winter Park for practice with the full team. The Patriots ran through their full array of special-teams drills during the afternoon workout, but relied on the JUGS for kicks.
With the week of work nearly complete, Belichick said he was pleased with his team's focus and practices as Super Bowl LII approaches. "I think they've been focused, no question," he said. "There are things that are different about this game, but we've managed those and we've tried to focus on what we need to do and I think the attention level has been good.
"It's hard to win in this league. It's very competitive. I think we'll be ready to go and we'll go out there and do the best we can."
Patriots Practice & Team Report - February 1, 2018
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The New England Patriots were in the middle of a lengthy special-teams period when a small crowd gathered along the sideline at the 50-yard mark at the Vikings’ Winter Park facility. Veteran linebacker James Harrison, clad in his u sual baggy sweatpants, joined veteran defensive backs Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung to chat up Vince Wilfork, a 13-year nose tackle who signed a one-day contract last year to retire as a Patriot. They traded barbs and laughs before the current players were called back to the field to close out the team’s workout.
Shortly after, Patriots coach Bill Belichick called for the end of practice and ordered his players circle round at midfield while Wilfork held court. He relayed some lessons learned from his four Super Bowls with the Patriots. And he encouraged the players to stay focused.
His message: There will be plenty of distractions in the next three days. But remember why you’re here.
"He's a great leader for us, team captain 11 years," Belichick said. "A lot of friends here on the team, some new faces. But a guy that was very well-respected and had tremendous leadership on the team. It was good to see him."
Wilfork was the guest of honor Thursday afternoon during the Patriots’ second day of practice ahead of Super Bowl LII. But his return wasn’t the only positive the team received.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. both practiced in full for the first time since suffering concussions and both will be cleared from the protocol, Belichick said. Gronkowski is scheduled to address media at the team’s availability Thursday afternoon. Defensive backs Malcolm Butler (illness) and Brandon King (knee) were also full participants after practicing on a limited basis Wednesday. And quarterback Tom Brady again practiced with only black KT Tape -- no glove -- on his right hand.
Balancing game prep with players’ health to ensure they stay fresh for the Super Bowl is an act Belichick has played seven other times as a head coach, and by now, he has a routine from which he rarely strays.
"It's a long year but we're in a routine, we do what we do," he said. "So part of getting ready for the game is training for the game that week. We kind of have stayed pretty much in our own routine."
As planned, the team practiced in shells and helmets Thursday and had a lighter period than the up-tempo, fully padded session Wednesday. The near two-hour workout included time dedicated to special teams, but was also used to sharpen some things from the previous day.
"A little better than yesterday," Belichick said. "We got a few things cleaned up. So I think we're getting a little closer each day. Hopefully, we'll be at our best on Sunday."
Friday will be even lighter and Saturday will be primarily a gathering of friends and family for a team photo. Friday will also include a kicking session for the specialists at U.S. Bank Stadium (they had one Wednesday as well). But no matter the location, Belichick said the team’s focus will remain the same as Super Bowl LII approaches.
"There's a lot to deal with," he said. "We have distractions all year long, so we've dealt with a lot. We just try to maintain focus on our job and whatever the outside stuff is, minimize it. We have to deal with it sometimes, depending on what it is, but we try to minimize it and try to stay focused on our job."
Patriots Practice & Team Report - January 31, 2018
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The New England Patriots kicked off their Super Bowl week of practice with their first and only fully padded session Wednesday afternoon at the Minnesota Vikings' Winter Park indoor facility.
And at Week 20, they seemingly haven't missed a beat.
"We're getting there," coach Bill Belichick said. "Every year is a little bit different because we're a little bit different and the team we play is a little bit different. But I think we're doing the best we can."
The 12:30 p.m. CT practice lasted approximately two hours without a minute wasted.
Quarterback Tom Brady, wearing only black tape on his injured right (throwing) hand, practiced in full and led the offense through passing and red-zone drills to start, then situational 11-on-11 football.
By his side for much of the workout was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who will practiced in pads and was listed as limited as he works his way through the concussion protocol.
"We red-jerseyed him today so he's working his way back," Belichick said.
Also limited were defensive lineman Deatrich Wise (concussion) and cornerback Malcolm Butler (illness).
The up-tempo practice was similar to most other Patriots practices, with receivers running routes and catching deep balls from Brady to start. The offense transitioned into a red-zone period, then went straight to 11-on-11, with the noise cranking up before every snap. Special teams took over for kick returns, and later field goals. After additional 11-on-11 work, Brady and the offense closed it out with a two-minute drill.
The location might have changed. The opponent too. But the Patriots' schedule remains regimented, with morning meetings, weights and practice, then additional team meetings and media availability to follow at the team's hotel attached to the Mall of America.
"Again, it varies during the season -- short weeks, long weeks," Belichick said. "But we had a week in Foxboro and now it's kind of our day to hit the tempo here and tomorrow will be a little less, Friday will be a little less."
The Patriots will return to the Vikings' facility for practice at the same time Thursday and will have two more daily sessions before Sunday's game.
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